MY FEBRUARY 2022 GARDEN

Once again the lack of rain coupled with high daily temperatures and a lack of piped water means that even the trees in my garden are shrivelling. During the cooler part of this morning I walked around to photograph things that caught my eye. The first is a pot of Dianthus in different hues of pink. These were planted in December, so have done well.

Flowers such as these really only survive in pots; indigenous flowers such as the Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), thrive even during the drought.

Hanging over the swimming pool are the beautiful plumbago flowers that are also brightening up the veld during this period of heat and aridity.

Even though it is not an indigenous plant, the Frangipani does not seem to mind the trying weather conditions either. While it is not blooming as profusely as it does during the ‘good’ years, its flowers are always welcome.

Of course most gardens contain a share of spiders. This one was sunning itself in the centre of its web that is almost invisible against the background of the wall.

Lastly, I was rather taken aback to see this rain spider keeping watch over its nest.

PLUMBAGO II

The regular appearance of the pretty blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) blooms both in our garden and all over the Eastern Cape veld is uplifting – whatever the weather.

The name Plumbago is derived from plumbum meaning lead, as it was once thought to be a cure for lead poisoning – which has been discounted. Auriculata means ear-shaped and refers to the leaf base. This probably why one of its common names is Cape leadwort. It is known as blousyselbos in Afrikaans.

We have several of these shrubs growing in our garden; some deliberately planted and others that have made themselves at home. The easiest method of propagation is to remove rooted suckers from the mother plant. Apart from its delicate blue flowers, a real bonus in this part of the world is that the Plumbago is tolerant of heat and is drought-resistant. It grows well in the sunlight and flowers less prolifically in the shade.

The tenaciousness of the Plumbago is evident where these shrubs have been grazed to ground level – yet they still flower!

There are sticky, gland tipped hairs on the flower calyx as well as on the seed capsule. My grandchildren have enjoyed utilising this stickiness to make ‘earrings’ with the flowers.

Plumbago provides a food source for butterflies and I have often seen birds such as Cape White-eyes, Speckled Mousebirds and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds visiting these shrubs. One year a Cape Robin-chat chose to nest in the Plumbago near our front path.

SOME WILDFLOWERS BLOOMING

One of the joys of living in the Eastern Cape is the abundance of plumbago blooming in gardens and all over the veld:

There are also these trumpet-shaped white flowers which I have not yet identified:

The Schotia afra is putting forth its scarlet blooms too:

The mother-in-laws-tongue (Sanseviera hyacinthoides) that has been flowering in the veld is also coming into bloom in my garden:

Looking very pretty in bare patches are a variety of succulents such as this ice-plant:

Lastly, are the crossberries that are coming into flower:

NOVEMBER 2021 GARDEN

I am pleased to report that my garden today is wet. Yes, really: it is wet, wet, wet and although the rain has made way for the sun, leaves are dripping – some are even weighing down the branches with the weight of rain. This is a sight for sore eyes – 28mm of rain!

Rain means mud and mud means that the Lesser-striped Swallows can proceed with their urgent task of constructing their mud nest under the eaves.

A Hadeda Ibis chick balances on the edge of the precarious nest in the back garden.

While a beautiful nest woven by an excited Southern Masked Weaver bobs up and down with no tenants – it was obviously not deemed to be good enough when the female inspected it!

My teeny weeny patch of flowers has got a new lease of life – just when I thought it was soon going to revert to being a bare patch of ground.

A very old hibiscus has come into bloom.

So has the indigenous Plumbago.

A matter of weeks ago I thought I would have to remove the Christ thorns lining the front path.

All over the garden the Crossberries are coming into bloom.

As is the very beautiful Cape Chestnut tree.

THERE IS STILL A MONTH TO GO …

Generally speaking, South Africans seem to experience summery weather from as early as October through to March, with spring-like weather often being confined to September. More to the point is that trees, birds, flowers and animals do not follow human conventions. Some of the many weavers visiting the garden are in full breeding plumage; I spotted three Pin-tailed Whydahs this morning that are sloughing off their winter tweedy look; Common Fiscals and Olive Thrushes are already flying back and forth to their nests with food in their beaks … ‘officially’ there is still a month to go before spring arrives on our doorstep.

In the meanwhile, here are some pictures from around my garden that are cheering. The first are some petunias that have been flowering bravely despite a lack of adequate water and having taken a battering from the wind that has been blowing fiercely.

The few surviving phlox are making a brave show too, in between the petunias, pansies and some self-sown African daisies.

Around the swimming pool, we are still enjoying the lovely blossoms on the Crassula ovata that attract bees and other insects.

Some of the indigenous Plumbago is coming into bloom too.

Soon the freesia buds will open – a timely reminder of the flowers carried by my mother in her wartime bridal bouquet.

Then there is the jasmine, the heady scent of which fills the garden during the late afternoons and early evenings.